Many memorable sports stories marked 2013, but for more than seven in ten sports fans nationally, the bombing at the Boston Marathon is the most notable. 71% of sports fans have this view. This compares with 14% who think the NFL concussion settlement was the most significant. Seven percent report baseball’s Biogenesis drug scandal had the largest effect while an additional 7% say the hazing scandal involving the Miami Dolphins had the biggest impact on sports in 2013. One percent is unsure.
This Marist Poll is done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“While stories like the concussion settlement and Biogenesis scandal were important in the context of their sports, the marathon tragedy went further to impact the national conversation, even for those with little or no interest in the event itself,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “The Boston Marathon both vastly impacted and transcended sport at the same time.”
Iron Bowl and BoSox Vie for Title of 2013’s Best Cinderella Story
The matchup between the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers is one of college sports’ most heralded rivalries. When the Tigers returned the Crimson Tide’s missed field goal at the end of the game, resulting in an upset victory for Auburn, it went down in the books for 36% of sports fans as the Cinderella story of 2013. However, about one-third of sports fans — 33% — disagree and give that title to the Boston Red Sox’s ascent from the worst team in baseball to World Series Champions. Nearly one in five sports fans — 18% — think the Pittsburgh Pirates making Major League Baseball’s playoffs for the first time in 21 years is the greatest underdog story of the year. This compares with 11% who report the most unexpected sports outcome was Florida Gulf Coast making the Sweet 16 of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Three percent are unsure.
There are regional, racial, and gender differences. While a plurality of fans in the Northeast — 38% — think the Red Sox season is the biggest Cinderella story of the year, a plurality of those in the South — 45% — believe Auburn’s upset victory deserves the title. 40% of sports fans in the West say the Red Sox story outdoes the Auburn victory. 35% think the opposite is true. In the Midwest, 36% cite Auburn’s win as the biggest sports surprise. This compares with 30% who believe the Red Sox turnaround is the most unexpected sports story of 2013.
Looking at race, 40% of white sports fans think Auburn’s upset victory is the best Cinderella story of 2013. This compares with 38% of non-white fans who say the Boston Red Sox climb from last to champs is the biggest upset of the year. A gender divide also exists. 38% of men say the outcome of the Iron Bowl trumps the year’s other major sports fairytales, and 30% point to the BoSox. However, women divide. 36% say the Red Sox season is the best Cinderella story of the year compared with 33% who say Auburn’s win takes the top spot.
Big Papi’s MVP Title and the Heat’s Winning Streak Top Sports Accomplishments
Which sports accomplishment do fans consider to be the best in 2013? Nearly three in ten — 29% — say the Red Sox’s David Ortiz winning the World Series MVP is the best. The Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak follows closely behind with 28%. One in five — 20% — reports NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson winning his sixth Sprint Cup Championship takes top honors while 16% say Tiger Woods ranking as the number one golfer in the world is the biggest sports accomplishment of 2013. Seven percent are unsure.
Age differences exist. 39% of those under thirty believe the Heat’s winning streak was the biggest accomplishment of the year. The same proportion of those 30 to 44 — 39% — agree. However, among fans 45 to 59, 35% say David Ortiz’s MVP title is the biggest sports accomplishment of 2013. There is no consensus among those 60 and older. One in four — 25% — cites David Ortiz being named World Series MVP. This compares with 21% who mention the Heat’s winning streak, 20% who say Jimmie Johnson’s sixth Sprint Cup victory, and 20% who cite Tiger Woods’ number-one ranking.
Peyton Manning Named Most Influential Athlete for Second Year
A majority of sports fans nationally — 55% — say Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the player who has had the biggest impact on his sport in 2013. This is the second year in which Manning has received this title. Miami Heat power forward LeBron James is considered by 20% to be the player who had the biggest impact on the NBA. 11% believe tennis great Serena Williams was the most influential on her sport while 10% report Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera had the biggest impact on his sport this year. Five percent are unsure.
Just how many Americans are sports fans? A majority — 55% — are while 45% say they are not.